West Side Story: Bringing Action to the Stage

My sister. She has been a musical theater nerd since as long as I can remember. She’s the one who made me do it.

The Green Room in Newton, NC will be performing West Side Story in September and I have been given the opportunity to join them. It has been several years since I have participated in musical theater and I cannot wait to perform. Abigail will be playing the part of “Anita” (a major role, especially for a non-hispanic) and I will be cast as “Action,” one of the Jets. In case you are unfamiliar with the musical, here is a brief synopsis.

Set in late 1950’s New York City, this modern-day Romeo and Juliet love story plays to the love-hate tensions found in the Montague and Capulet families. The Sharks, Puerto Rican immigrants beginning a new life in the Big Apple, collide with the Jets, a bunch of hormone-driven New Yorkers from rough homes. An unlikely romance emerges and plays out, putting the gangs at even greater odds. You can read more in-depth reviews here.

FUGE Camps: a new area of ministry

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I attended Christian summer camps growing up. This has fueled my pursuit of full-time vocational ministry and helped me to see the importance of this season in the lives of students.  While there are exceptions of fun, shallow, and meaningless summer camps, I have the opportunity to serve with a meaningful camp, one that keeps Christ as its sole focus.

FUGE Camps

This summer I have the honor of serving as Worship Leader with FUGE in Houston, TX. This journey will be the first of (hopefully) many summers serving. I will be leading a 4-person band in addition to other staffers and leaders from all over the country.


There are several indicators that FUGE has Christ as its sole focus. The Staff Manual includes 4 Key Vision principles to promote the following ideals…

  1.  We claim the Great Commission as our charge to seek and promote LIFE CHANGE.
    2. We equip people toward INTENTIONAL MINISTRY.
  2. We join with churches to respond to their needs as a FAMILY.
  3. We address needs with relevance and EXCELLENCE.

In addition, FUGE includes the following on their website.

2016Theme.jpg

Unashamed: Romans 1:16-17 is the theme.

“MFUGE is a program designed to help your students jump into ministry with local communities and serve people in need, and then take their experience home to do missions there. FUGE Camp staffers take care of the details and planning. During the day, students are challenged as individuals working alongside students and leaders from other groups. In the evening, build your group unity over worship, church group time and fellowship.”


Pray

It’s a long way from Raleigh to Houston. So here are some ways you can be praying for our team. We are exactly one month away from flying to Houston for training week.

  • Our team will be there for a full month including long days and short nights. Please pray that we get adequate rest, devote time with God on a more intimate basis, and help students to see the God that died to save them.
  • Many of the staffers are college students (myself included) and are finishing the Spring semester. Finals and papers are challenging, so please pray for perseverance and the priority of devoted time with God.
  • Finally, pray that God would reveal himself to staff, leaders, and campers as they enjoy this life-changing experience. May He receive the glory by drawing students to himself and radically saving them from their sin. Pray that these students would learn and live what it means to be Unashamed of the gospel, to live in a manner worthy of our calling.

If any of this appeals to you, please do not hesitate to inquire. Deadlines have passed for this summer, but please consider applying for next year. You can do so by following this link.

5 Truths for Singles on Valentine’s Day

I’ve been single for a few years now. Whether you hear that as a good or bad thing is not all that important. I’ve learned things about myself to prepare my life for a future bride. However, there are certain observations that come with singleness. Here are 5 truths about being single.

  1. Being single does not mean you are loved less. At times, singleness feels empty, abandoned, or meaningless (especially on Valentine’s Day). Fact remains that we are still loved, but that love simply takes on a different form. My family has grown closer through seasons of difficulty (mentioned in two previous posts). Over the last year especially, I have come to know and love several close friends. They show me grace, compassion, concern, wisdom, and accountability. I know I am loved by fellow Christians and our Loving God. Tim Keller puts it more bluntly, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” You are loved, and don’t forget that.
  2. Being single adapts your heart for Christian community. Whatever model your church uses for community, there is a fundamental truth about them all: Christians sharpen each other for the glory of God and edification of the believer. For my context, small groups are the practical example of brothers (and sisters) coming together and building relationships. Community is never an easy thing; if it is, you’re doing it wrong. Being single in a small group has humbled and encouraged me; it’s shown my desire for the approval of others, for status and power. Ultimately, these believers have shown my need for the gospel. Community exposes our guilt only to be replaced with God’s goodness.
  3. Being single prepares your heart for a companion. This seems very counter-intuitive at moments. “I’m growing older and don’t have any prospects. How is this helping me get married??” Singleness, like other circumstances, is for a season (as I have mentioned in this post). You and I are placed here for a reason: to prepare our heart, soul, and logo549mind for the most intimate relationship imaginable. The model is used of the Groom loving his Bride just as Christ has/is
    loving the church. If this good, sinless, holy God likens himself to a Bride Groom, the weight and responsibility of marriage is intensified; use this time wisely.
  4. Being single exposes the idols of your heart. This is an expansion of the previous two truths. Community is an avenue to revealing idols; devoted time with God through prayer and meditating on His Word is another means. It’s tough reading through passages like Ephesians 5 and grasping a tangible meaning behind marriage. But over time and through community, God will reveal all mystery according to his purpose.
  5. Being single can be a tool for the mission of God. Simply put, single people have more time and energy on their hands. It’s hard to see now, but God has a special plan for all Christians (married and single). For some singles, this may mean devoting a summer to experience God’s work through short and long term missions (this cannot be overstated in importance). For others, it may be a season to be engaged in full-time mission work. Whatever the circumstance, I challenge you to “Do what you do well for the glory of God; and do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.” (reference)

Many of these observations could have books written on them. In summary, don’t waste this season of singleness. It is a gift from God, so be a steward of what He has entrusted to you.
Did I miss anything? Have any truths or experiences you would like to add? Comment below.

Is Art Good or Bad? (reblog)

Dr. Bruce Ashford, one of several writers at IntersectProject.org of Southeastern Seminary, gave a personal, philosophical, theological, and historical explanation of art (Good and bad, Excellent and flawed). Below is an excerpt of the article. You can read the full blog post here.
And don’t forget to follow Dr. Ashford on Twitter.


 

How to Evaluate the Arts

In Art Needs No Justification, art historian and critic Hans Rookmaaker notes that good art does not need to have Bible characters or church content as its subject matter. God made us artfully and wants us to be artful, so the subject matter of the art doesn’t matter so much. What matters more is that the art is done from within a Christian worldview, for God’s glory and in a way that helps human beings flourish.[1]

“God made us artfully and wants us to be artful.”
Click to tweet

Francis Schaeffer expands on this theme in Art and the Bible. After building his theological case for the value of the arts, he shows us how to value specific works of art. In particular, he provides us with four standards by which we can judge a work of art. Although Schaeffer had in mind primarily oil paintings, statues and similar types of art, the standards he articulates are ones that any Christian can use to evaluate other types of art, such as movies, music, graphic design, or home design.

  1. Technical Excellence
    Schaeffer asks whether a painter’s canvas gives evidence of technical excellence in categories such as color, form, balance, the unity of the canvas, its handling of lines, and so forth. Similarly, one could ask whether a movie director is skillful in his use of sound and lighting.
  1. Validity
    In order for a work of art to possess validity, it should have been produced by an artist who is honest to herself and her worldview (or does she, for example, sell out for money?). Does the artist explore themes or questions that are within her depth, or that indicate she is merely trying to impress?
  1. Content
    Is the artist’s worldview resonant with a Christian worldview? A piece of art gives glimpses of an artist’s worldview, and an artist’s whole body of work will tend to reveal the broad contours of his worldview, even though he may not be aware of this.When a singer sings about love, is his view of love shaped by the biblical teaching about love? When a screenwriter produces a movie script whose theme is the meaning of life, does her treatment of the theme reflect Christianity’s deepest teaching on the matter?
  1. Integration of content and vehicle.
    Does this work of art correlate its content with its style? If the lyrics speak to a theme of personal loss, does the music similarly convey a sense of loss? If the lyrics portray the beauty of romantic love, does the music enhance that sense of beauty or subvert it?

Conclusion

Schaeffer was not a professional art critic, and his work has some flaws. However, we can learn much from him.

We learn that we should strive to produce good art — art that arises from within a comprehensive Christian worldview and contributes to the well-being of God’s people and of the broader community.

We learn that good, Christian art does not have to be explicitly religious and often is more powerful when it is not.

What is Worship? (A Working Definition)

I have been diving into my current classes, two of which are heavily focused on the act and process by which we worship God. I do not have many comments on the following as I am still chewing on this material. But this powerful definition has challenged my personal and spiritual growth.

IamGoingCollege


Worship
is the human response to the self-revelation of the triune God, which includes:
1) divine initiation in which God graciously reveals Himself, His purposes, and His will;
2) a spiritual and personal relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ enabled by the ministry of the Holy Spirit;
3) a response by the worshiper of joyful adoration, reverence, humility, submission, and obedience.

 

 

This three-fold definition unfolds based on the revelation and grace of God, an intimate relationship made possible through each Person of the Trinity, and the natural response of joy and gladness.

Is there anything you would like to add? Anything that should be made clearer? Leave a comment below.
This definition has been crafted by and is intellectual property of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Dr. Joshua Waggener.

The Good Samaritan (reblog)

One day, a Christian of America made up in his mind to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, remind me on how I am to inherit eternal life.”  Jesus said to him, “What is written in the New Testament? How do you read it?” And he answered, “I must have faith in him whom God has risen from the dead. It is a living faith which leads me to love God and my neighbor.” And Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But the Christian of America, didn’t fully appreciate the answer. He straightened his back. Cast a smirk of a smile and said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A man was going from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia, and he was car-jacked by several persons, who stole his clothes, seized his smartphone, broke his ribs, cracked his skull, leaving him unconscious on the side of the road.  Now it happened to be the time of a great conference and a pro-life group was passing by, and when they saw the man, they passed on by. Likewise a missionary group who just returned from India, when they came to the exact same location, they too passed on to the other side.

But a Muslim, 7817868_origas he traveled to work, saw the man on the side of the road, and when he saw him, he entered into his suffering. He pulled out his first aid kit, tended to the man’s injuries and then called 911 for emergency assistance. He followed the ambulance to the hospital and sat over night with the man in ICU.  Next morning he told the hospital billing office, “Here is my credit card. Take care of him and whatever he needs.”

Jesus looked at the Christian of America and with strong eyes asked, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man carjacked?”

The Christian of America clenched his fist. He looked around fumbling with the keys in his pocket. He finally looked up to Jesus and said, “The one who showed him mercy.”

And Jesus says to the Christian of America,

“You go, and do the same.”

This retelling of the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) was inspired by my friend Jared Wilson who tweeted on Monday December 7, 2015:

“If Jesus were telling the parable we call The Good Samaritan to many evangelicals today, it might be known as The Good Muslim.”

This year has proven we need to revisit this parable and others like it to recover how we are to live as Christians in this current climate. We are seeking to justify ourselves and how we treat others on the basis of our citizenship, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Such justifications lead us only to love those who are like us. This parable demonstrates the power of transformative love when those who are in conflict share in each other’s suffering. This parable is spoken to those who ask the question, “What must I do to inherit life?”

Jesus is speaking to us today.

Jesus is telling us a old story in a new way.

Jesus who has showed us mercy now says,

“You go, and do the same. It will cost you time. It will cost you resources. It will cost your life. But because I have give you the power of an indestructible life. You go, and do the same. Show mercy as an act of gratitude for the mercy you have received.”



 

Originally posted by Phillip Fletcher on 12/8/15

The Broken Clock (reblog)

Originally posted 9/30/2010 from my previous blog. Enjoy!



 

Over the past week, I have noticed something… A peculiar observation, maybe, but it got me thinking…

In my bathroom, there is a traditional clock with the second hand, minute hand, and hour hand. The second hand appears to be stuck. It keeps on twitching like its making an effort, has batteries, and everything! But it just will NOT move. It’s protected by a glass cover, so nothing external is stopping it…. Obviously, there is some internal problem? But what could that be.

Now, lets be honest for a minute… How many of us can relate this to our spiritual walk?

We have the Inspiration (the battery, if you will) of Jesus coming to DIE for a stupid sinners and all of the mistakes that we have made. That is not the issue.

We have the Mental Capacity to know what we should do. Instead, we choose not to? Shouldn’t we be striving for Spiritual Disciplines and being Spiritually fit–Exercising what we know, acting above reproach where others cannot assume wrongdoing.

We have the Protection to exercise these Freedoms and the opportunity to live in a Free nation unlike other Christians around the world. So many Christians (like myself) were sheltered homes from drugs, alcohol, and other addictions.

If we are saved, we should have the longing to grow in a relationship with Christ.

So what exactly is our excuse for complacency?

Is it because people will think we’re freaks or we won’t be accepted by our friends? Is it because we just don’t want to put any effort into the two-way relationship? Is it because we do not want to give up certain things like our pride or personal possessions? Whatever the reason may be, God means much more than any of those little excuses we rely on.

Self-examination should be something that we are constantly doing so we do not stop “ticking” and making any effort in life.

And to be honest, this is one of the fundamental things with Christianity! Once we get past these feelings and excuses, the minute hand slowly begins to move…. then the hour hand and time begins to MOVE and not just be in existence without any purpose! Moving on past complacency is an amazing feeling. Living your life to its fullest extent is incredible! Because we can and should discover God’s love and let that effect our everyday lifestyle and be contagious to other people.

When we really step back from a situation and realize that life more than just our lives and little excuses and truly understand that God’s wants us to be a part of His plan, we will truly understand God’s love for us and the fact that He does not want us to be living complacent lives.

For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;

                                     -Proverbs 1:32

Cherishing Family Before They Are History

Over the span of two months, my family has lost two very important people. My grandma Pauley had a 5-7 year battle with Alzheimer’s, leaving her debilitated and unaware of her surroundings. There are many stories I could share about my time visiting her in institutions, listening to her tell stories, and watching Shirley Temple.

Our final time seeing my grandma before her passing in September. Dad had to keep up with how hungry she was.

Our final time seeing my grandma before her passing in September. Dad had to keep up with how hungry she was.

Early this morning my grandpa Pauley “Buddy” went to be with the Lord, to be with his wife in perfect bodies. He endured such a long and painful life; he was a tough man, but had a very tender heart. Even in my grandmother’s darkest hour, he was faithful in his love and his affection toward her. He was an abundantly free soul in spite of being paraplegic for most of his life.  In many ways, I want to be just like him and pass on the legacy he established on this earth.

3 generations of Pauley men. Jack Stack, our favorite place to visit in Kansas City, MO. Buddy always got the Poor Russ even if it wasn't the best on the menu.

3 generations of Pauley men. Jack Stack, our favorite place to visit in Kansas City, MO. Buddy always got the Poor Russ even if it wasn’t the best on the menu.

One of the last times I spoke with him in person, I was asking about our family history (otherwise known as genealogy). Do not take this lightly! Family history is such a precious thing; your past sets the trajectory of your future because it shapes the man or woman you will be. Cherish the time spent with and the lessons learned from family members. Cherish family this Christmas season because you do not know if this will be your last season together. Yesterday I was able to say one final goodbye to my grandfather. I shared a few sweet memories and a passage of scripture that I have committed to memory, verses I wish to share with you.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:2-5 ESV

Rich Mullins was a Christian songwriter, visionary, and anomaly in the 90’s. He unexpectedly passed away, but he highly valued family roots. In one of his biographies, he said “Until you come to terms with your heritage you’ll never be at peace with yourself.” His lyrics from “First Family” put it a little more poetically. “[My family] worked to give faith hands and feet, and somehow gave it wings.”

To conclude, I am still processing all of this. These are merely a few thoughts to digest this news. I want to encourage you: whatever pain you are in, there is a God greater than our pain. God loves you. This may be the last thing you want to hear because you need time to absorb the pain. But God doesn’t just love you; just like a Good Father, he longs to absorb your pain for you and replace with joy everlasting.


There are two books that have helped me get a broader of pain as well as family:
An Arrow Pointing to Heaven by James Bryan Smith (Devotional Biography on the life of Rich Mullins). Quoted above on page 14. Available on Amazon.
Stronger: How Hard Times Reveal God’s Greatest Power by Clayton King. He recently shared a sermon based on this book.

No Lower Place to Fall

Pride, an area where I am constantly struggling. This blog is by another worship leader and brother in Christ.

augustusmusic

It has been a year and a half since the Holy Spirit embarrassed me in front of all of my colleagues and the parents of my students.

His timing was perfect…

Perfectly ironic.

It was the spring of 2013 and I was teaching high school Chemistry in Indianapolis. All the faculty, staff and proud parents were gathering to celebrate the remarkable achievements of our student body. We had made our way through some pretty serious academic awards that evening and we were moving nicely along to the more light-hearted portion of the ceremony. I was sitting in the middle of the teacher section when it happened; hemmed in on all sides by my esteemed colleagues.

The speaker was making some great jokes and had everyone in the room engaged and feeling good. And it was right in the middle of this moment that the Holy Spirit decided to interrupt my thoughts…

View original post 975 more words

My Testimony: A story of the gospel

I grew up in a wonderful home. Granted, no family is perfect but mine seemed better than most. My dad is a worship pastor and my whole family is musical. Jesus and music abilities. What could be better?

Elementary school, I was living in VA Beach where my dad was serving. We were heavily involved in choirs, student events, and everything in-between. I heard the gospel every Sunday growing up; however, one Sunday was different. The pastor was speaking on Hell and what Jesus went through, a “Brimstone and Fire” message if you will, and I felt severely convicted. He was speaking right to me (you know what I’m talking about). I came down front and prayed a prayer of salvation; I knew I was a sinner and that I needed God. To this day I believe God saved me then.

I have moved my entire life. I have lived in 8 cities across 3 states, most cities living in multiple homes. Especially during Middle School, I wondered why my family had to move. Why couldn’t I make friends? Why were all my friends happier than I was? Why does no one like me, think I’m funny, or laugh at my jokes? 
I became isolated. Closed off to trusting others. This was the easiest option, so I thought, because no one had to get hurt. Especially me.

Middle School in Roanoke was bad (7th and 8th grade were the worst). I was classified by others as a band geek, uncertain of who I wanted to be. Most days would be filled with self-loathing, depression, guilt, and suicidal thoughts. Why wasn’t I good enough? Why was I constantly messing up; wasn’t I supposed to be better than everyone else because my dad’s a pastor? I am such a hypocrite!

Middle school ends, high school begins, and we moved again. More of the same. We relocated to Richmond (where I attended Christian school), but this move was different. Back at the age of 9, I prayed a prayer to receive Christ. I was scared of God’s wrath, but I didn’t understand the immensity of this decision. Not only did God save me from Eternal separation from Him, but He bestowed grace and loved me even while I lived in my sin (1Jn 4:9-11; Rom 5:7-9, Eph 2:4-5). God’s love gained another dimension because the people of God treated the world just as Jesus commanded.
Years later, Christians in my youth group had joy and I naturally gravitated to them because I wanted the very same joy! The more I began to ask questions, the sooner they were answered. Simultaneously, my Christian life grew deeper (in trust and obedience) as well as wider (developing a heart for the nations). This is what Jesus meant when he spoke of making disciples.

To this day, I believe that God’s primary plan is to reach the lost world by means of The Church. God acts through his people, and we love others because he first loved us. “Testimony,” a declaration; “Gospel,” good news. “My declaration: a story of the good news.” Having shared part of my story, What good news will you proclaim about God’s work in your life?


 

Testimonies will never be the exact same. Every person is uniquely created in God’s Image, and every person has a testimony. Therefore, every testimony will be unique according to God’s Providence in their life.
We love stories. Whatever medium (movies, books, audible, or poetic), we love stories with a redemptive plot. Because we live in a culture of stories, I encourage you to write out your testimony, share it with a friend, or tell an unbeliever about what God has done in your life. If you do not have a testimony about a personal relationship with God, please contact me using the form below. I would love to hear from you and begin a conversation in more detail.

–Landon, SDG